“Searching For Home” Costumes

Kyle Chan and I created these costumes over the last 5 months. The initial designs were based on an earlier version of the piece. Its costume was an early piece from Cyber Optix. The process was as follows:

Sketching initial ideas. The more interesting costumes are conceptual planets. They have their own rings which can be seen as tutus. They have their own set of stars. I found  a costume house that provided the basics of the costume. In this case it was Cicci’s.

Next was prototpying the electronics while Kyle worked on the tutus. I did not have time to do my own boards and early research indicated that I would need to do more programming to get the customized effects I wanted. Given the budget, flexibility, and timing allotted, I went with a Lilypad Arduino solution.

As many of you know Arduino is easy to use for beginners but can be annoying if you are already embedded savvy. As a result I had to allocate more time for tuning. For each costume, I customized according to:

  1. Blue costume- slower relaxed movement utilizing a light sensor to control the ripple rate on the arm. The same sensor controls the colored light flashes.
  2. Red costume- faster twitchy movement based on an accelerometer to control the ripple rate on the arm. Difference accel axises control the colored light flashes.

I created a separate RippleLib and PulseLib to leverage as much of the common code as possible.

Meanwhile, Kyle created the pan tutus. She used plastic boning with the gauzy organza. To enter and exit the tutu, we used snaps along the boning. The tutu is then attached to the trunks.


When costumes, came in, I began sewing in the electronics. Naturally, planning is most of the battle.I attempted to remove the chance of shorting the devices. First, sew in the parts, then connect them, test for shorts, and power up. The connecting was the longest and most arduous.  What if you needed to cross lines? Fortunately, single running stitch can handle this as well as a double layer of fabric can be seen as layers of a PCB.

Other factors to consider is testing the fabric to ensure it isn’t conductive or so thin it doesn’t provide an adequate barrier between trace thread lines.

We finally put it together by sewing snaps to the tutu and the flasher stripe. This design allows ease of attachment to other costumes.


Here is the picture of the pattern I made:


Coding is coming.

To start your own project even with only a basic knowledge of programming and sewing, checkout:

  • http://aniomagic.com/
  • http://web.media.mit.edu/~leah/LilyPad/
  • http://arduino.cc/en/Guide/ArduinoLilyPad
  • http://www.adafruit.com/category/92

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